So, you’re looking for ideas to reward the loyal customers you have who keep coming back? Good for you, because brand loyalty is the keystone for building your community and, even further, for developing the ever-elusive brand evangelists who will reward your company with the kind of word-of-mouth referrals that are invaluable. Think about it, people who are already into your products or services are just a step away from being part of your community. So while your brand’s loyal customers aren’t the same as your community, there is a fair amount of overlap. With the right incentives, they could very well make the leap over to productive community members and even brand ambassadors.

We’ve broached the subject of how to reward your community members before—intrinsic vs. extrinsic rewards, etc.—and how you can harness them to build a community. But what about the loyal customers? Since you don’t have an established report with them yet, rewarding them is a bit different, but it can be just as beneficial for your brand in the long run.

Keep in mind, with many businesses, there is a relatively small portion of the customer base that generates outsized amounts of revenue (think about the 80/20 rule). It’s worth rewarding these customers especially for the long-term health of your company. And there are a million ways you can find to make your most important customers feel just how important they are to you, so even if your company is a non-profit without a lot of resources, even free gestures can make your customers smile. Let’s take a look at some ideas for showing your loyal customers how much you appreciate their return business.

1. Give Them Ownership in Your Brand

Look, these customers love you already, obviously, or else they wouldn’t be loyal. So let them know that you love and appreciate them back by giving them an investment in something bigger: the brand itself. And no, we don’t mean bringing them in as stockholders (although count us in if that’s your plan ;)), but rather, stakeholders. What does that mean?

It means fostering a sense of ownership in your customers by treating them as peers. Do you have new products coming down the pipeline? Invite your loyal customers in early in the process and let them express their opinions. And then listen to them.

For example, if you are developing a new product, testing out an innovative approach, or starting a new service, why not check with the audience that you have? Who better to give you feedback than your loyal customers who already have a sense of what they expect and hope for when they engage with your brand? Invite your most loyal customers to become beta users or taste testers or give them a first look and solicit their reactions and criticism. This will give your best customers a sense of being a stakeholder in your brand, as well as helping you create a tested offering. If you want to know more about this idea, take a look at how Optimizely approached a redesign with their community members in mind as stakeholders.

A #1 sign2. Make Them Feel Like Your #1 With VIP Treatment

Red carpets exist for a reason. People like to feel important, special, noticed, and on the inside. And while your company is probably a far cry from the glitz and the glamour of Hollywood, it doesn’t mean you can’t still roll out the red carpet metaphorically for your loyal customers. What this means can vary widely based on your business model and your resources.

For example, maybe you have new products coming down the pipeline that you can offer your best customers early access to. Another means of showing your customers they’re special could be hosting special IRL events for them to attend, which is also a great opportunity for you to put faces to the names that make up your community. Or just acknowledging your loyal customers in real life sometimes—think a birthday card or a goodie box in the mail—can be a way to break down the barrier between us-and-them.

Treating them like VIPs, though, doesn’t mean you must give them something physical. Perhaps your company has a lot of knowledge to share—like us here at CMX. Maybe you can share it with your VIP customers through a special invite-only webinar or members-only access to white papers or data. Focus on what your company excels at and bring that to your VIPs.

3. They’re Special, Let Them Feel That

Sure, giving them the VIP treatment is one way to make your loyal customers feel valued, but we’re talking about something more. Something more human, actually. It’s easy for consumers to see brands as nameless, faceless entities. That’s because, in many ways, they are. But you know that your brand is also more than that. There are real human beings behind it driving decisions and turning the wheels. I mean, you’re behind your brand, right?

Let your loyal customers see that by personalizing their experience and letting them know that you see them right back. For example, respond to them personally on social media and in your customer support portals. Or even better? Highlight who they are and let them enjoy a moment in the spotlight. What does that mean? Anything from a simple shout out tweet or Facebook post that acknowledges them by name to a profile of who they are featured on your social media, blog, or in an email campaign.

A mother whispers to child.4. Show Appreciation for Their Word-of-Mouth Referrals

If you’re paying attention to the news, you’ve probably heard the term “quid pro quo” bandied about quite a bit lately, and in a negative context. But you know what? Sometimes it’s right to acknowledge that your loyal customers are offering you something extremely valuable, their dedication and their oh-so-valuable word-of-mouth referrals, and it’s right and just to offer them back something valuable as well.

What does that mean, exactly? Give your loyal customers the opportunity to share custom links with their friends in order to earn special discounts, freebies, or rewards. For example, Lyft has done a great job of taking advantage of word-of-mouth referrals and incentivizing it for their users. When a user refers a friend, they both receive money in their account that they can use toward future rides. Not only are they rewarded, it helps acclimatize new users to how the service works! Win-win. The more they share, the more they are rewarded for it. Figure out ways that you can incorporate referral programs in your business model for an easy way of letting them know just how much you appreciate their loyalty.

a gift5. Let Them Have Fun

You’re a person, so you probably can agree with what I’m about to say: People like letting loose and having a little fun every now and then. WOW THAT’S DEEP! Wait, I’m about to go even deeper. People also like getting things for free. STOP IT, REBECCA, WITH ALL THE MIND-BLOWING TRUTHS! All jokes aside, though, there’s no law that says brands aren’t allowed to have a little fun every now and again. And guess what? Letting your loyal customers in on it is a great way make sure they love you back.

Create a buzz in your community by staging contests and giveaways, this can be as simple as a retweet or as complicated as an IRL scavenger hunt. If you have solid social channels, that can be an easy way to connect with your loyal customers and manage giveaways. For example, Facebook giveaways or Instagram photo contests can spur a lot of engagement and goodwill, as well as help build up those social channels, if either makes sense for your business model.

Just make sure it’s designed to amp up your community and get your loyal customers talking and excited. Not only will you get some almost-free brand amplification, you might just end up with some new brand loyalists in the process.

Rebecca Bridge

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